Who am I?

Back in June and early July, I started blogging about my faith much more than usual. I left photography for 30 days and instead wrote one post per day to give glory to God during the Holy month of Ramadan. Since then, I’ve continued writing about my faith and giving exhortations to myself first to worship God, give thanks, and try to be a better person. Writing things down helps me to remember, and if any of this reaches and benefits other people who read this blog (hi! and thanks for your time!), all thanks and praise belong to God: any benefit comes only from Him, and any errors are my own.

Some of you know me personally. Some of you have known me for many many years. Some of you are family members. You might be wondering “who the [unprintable] do you think you are telling me _______? Don’t you remember when you _______? Don’t you remember when we _______ and _______? Don’t you remember when I _______ and _______ and _______ for you?”

Well, I’ll tell you precisely who I am and what I think I’m doing here…

In Islam, we’re supposed to cover our faults and the faults of others, and we’re not supposed to brag about or bring up sins, so I’m not going to go into a full list, but once upon a time, some readers of this blog perhaps:

  • Helped me clean up and/or dry out (whether you realized it at the time or not)
  • Heard me slander and deny religion, faith, the unseen, etc.
  • Seen me engage in various and sundry activities unbecoming of someone who fears God
  • And all sorts of other things that I pray God ignores and keeps hidden on the Day of Judgement

Let’s not get too specific about anything.

How does someone with such a checkered past, some of it fairly recent, have the gall or the qualifications to speak about matters of faith, to encourage better action? Sure, all have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God and all, but this guy? Who does he think he is?

In addition, many of you know something about my upbringing, first in the Assembly of God & Nondenominational/Pentecostal churches, then in the Methodist and Unitarian Universalist Churches. I don’t think there are any pastors in my family tree, but I come from a rather long line of practicing Christians on both sides and most living relatives continue to practice one or another of the Christian denominations. How could I leave the religion of my parents and grandparents?

Well, I left Christianity in the mid-1990s, so it’s not like left my family faith for Islam. I left religion of my fathers for other reasons, wandered around for nearly two decades, and then and only then, when I finally cleaned up my act (literally and figuratively: I left most of the hard stuff by 1999 or so, and gave up gave up most everything else by 2010), did God guide me to this beautiful religion.

It was a long path, from unemployed after grad school, trying to drink my frustration away night after night, to a temp-to-permanent job 3 weeks after I stopped drinking, to a coworker who gave me a copy of the Quran and later accepted my clumsy proposal, and now here I am… I’m still struggling, I’m still not where I want to be, I’m still a sinner, every day, and God willing, I’m on the right path, or headed in teh right direction, despite my stumbles and misteps and sidetracks.

As God tells us

 إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّىٰ يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ

Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.

Ar Ra’d, 11

And I do believe that God guided me to Islam, and if He guided me to Islam, then it was Him and Him alone who guided me through all the other things, He Who allowed me to stray but kept me on a rather short leash, and despite my protests and denials, and it is He, alone, without any partners, that I intend to worship for the rest of my days. I’m not special in this regard: God guides who He wills, however He wills. I could worship Him and give thanks to Him in private, keep my head down, remember my place and let my elders and betters continue on their paths in peace. Some people, family members, even, would be happier with me if I did. But then I care about my family and friends, and if there is any problem with Islam, its with what people have done to it, not with what God and His messenger told us or instructed us on, and it’s a sin to keep the truth to yourself.

I believe the Quran to be the absolute Word of God, all thanks and praise be to Him who gave us His Mercy and Guidance. The Quran has been preserved in its original language for all this time: even in translation it’s clear that there’s something unique and special in it. And I believe the sayings and actions of the prophet, peace be upon him, to be the best model for behavior available to us today. All the prophets were the best of all people (despite what some of the other holy books claim about them), but only with Muhammad, peace be upon him, do we have such an extensive and thoroughly vetted record.

Why would I keep any of that to myself?

I’m no saint: I never have been. I’m trying to be better now.

If I’ve harmed you in the past, please forgive me, and if I can make amends somehow, remind me (privately) and help me to do so. I bear little ill will today, and it’s reserved mostly for tyrants and oppressors of all stripes. I have no intention of hurting you or anyone, and only want to share what I’ve learned and remind myself to be better. I’ve already apologized for things I’ve written recently, so no need for that here. God willing, I’m going to continue these Reminders, usually on Mondays and Thursdays. If anything I write is of benefit to anyone (including me), it comes only from God, and if what I write is wrong, it comes from me and the devil.

I hope you’ll stay tuned. If you come here only for the pictures or reviews or unboxing videos, come on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: God willing, I’ll continue to post the usual fare then, and I hope to be more active than I was in July and August. I have a huge backlog of photography-related stuff to share…

Thanks for reading either way. God willing my words are of benefit to me and you in this life and the next, and may He help me to remember Him and give thanks to Him and worship Him in the best possible manner, Amen.

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